St. Patrick’s day is upon us, as is a retrospective for a team I am working with. That brought me to thinking about retrospective techniques appropriate for the day. If you try them, enjoy, and let me know what you thought or how you modified them approach for your use.
There are three ideas in this post for you to consider:
1. Drive The Snakes Into the Sea
tells us that the reason there are no snakes in Ireland is because St. Patrick banished snakes by driving them into the sea
. While biologists speculate that there may never have been snakes in Ireland at all, driving snakes into the sea sounds like a fun way to gather data about what is bothering the team.
Supplies and Setup
- Post It Notes (large and small)
- Sharpie Markers
- A room with enough wall space to post use for collecting the results
- Draw a body of land and some water on a large flip chart or whiteboard
Step 1 – Set Context
Share just a little of the legend of St. Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland. Then, tell participants that for the retrospective, the team will identify the snakes that are in their environment, and then they will decide which they are going to drive into the sea.
Step 2 – Identify Issues
Begin with silent writing. Ask participants to think about what has “bitten the team” in the recent past, or what is about to bite them in the future. As they think of something, have them write it onto a larger PostIt note, one topic or concern per note. Have them hold onto the notes until each person is done generating their own ideas. Be sure to allow enough time for people to reflect and write their thoughts Watch the activity level of the room as your cue for moving forward or not.
Step 3 – Collect and Group Them
The sharing will be done in a rotational basis. Put the PostIts on the “land” side of the drawing you created in the “setup” step. Begin the sharing by having the first person share one idea, then another person shares one, and continue until everybody on the team has shared one idea. Then, the first person can share a second idea, and we rotate through the team again. Continue until all the ideas are on the board. If an idea is a duplicate, or quite similar to another idea, put them next to each other. This will begin to form the head of the snake. The more common a problem, the larger the snake head.
TIP: Set the expectation that the sharing should be brief and we’re not asking for a fully detailed explanation of the issue and its background. I like to ask that people keep their comments “tweet sized,” or no more than a sentence or two. This will help get some context and at the same time avoid going into lengthy analysis of each item.
After everybody has posted their ideas, it’s time to gather some data about the items that have been posted.
Step 4 – Get Consensus
This step is essentially a “dot vote,” except that we are going to build a body for the snakes based on the consensus of the team.
Begin by giving each team member the same number of the smaller PostIt notes. You can choose the question that the team is “voting” on. You can choose any single criteria by which people will vote using PostIts. Try to keep the questions in the frame of the “snakes into the sea” metaphor. Candidate question include: “Which of these do you think we have the energy banish into the sea this sprint?” Or, “Which of these, If we were able to have banish it to the sea, which of these would allow us to feel safer?”
Team members will then build a “body” onto each of the topics by stringing their votes out. Topics with more PostIts will be larger snakes. Of course, people can divide their votes amongst several topics.
At this point, your team will have identified topics and expressed an opinion about which topic they would like to work on. Take that snake, the one that has the longest body to it, and move it into the sea. Then, facilitate an activity to figure out how the team is going to try to make that happen.
In many works of art depicting St. Patrick, he is shown holding a shamrock. St. Patrick used the shamrock to talk about the trinity of the Christian faith.
This technique is designed to be a relatively short opening or closing activity for the team, allowing them to identify three items that they are happy about.
Supplies and Setup
- Create shamrocks for the team, enough for each team member to have one. Or, display a shamrock image and provide paper so that each member can draw their own.
- Green markers for drawing (optional)
- Sharpie Markers
Step 1 – Identify Three Things
There are times when we get distracted by things that are not going well, and stop to think about what is positive and uplifting for the team. Using a pre-printed shamrock, or drawing one on their own, write three things that are uplifting, one item on each lobe of the shamrock.
(optional) Step 1b. – Identify What Unifies Those Things
As the stem connects the three lobes of the shamrock, ask team each person to identify what connection they see between the three items they identified. Ask them to write it on, or near, the stem.
Step 2 – Sharing
Ask people to volunteer and briefly share with the group what they put on the shamrock.
I chose to make this optional since some people may feel a lack of emotional safety, thus choosing to not share.
End the sharing when everybody who wants to participate has done so.
Step 3 – Thank everybody
Be sure to thank everybody for participating.
3. Green Beer
It’s important that team members have relationships that extend beyond just “doing the work.” This technique is simple:
Take the team out of the building before the normal end of the work day and get some liquid refreshment. Relax. Get to know each other better.
If you choose to drink, drink responsibly. Provide cabs as necessary (hopefully it’s not). Drinking soft drinks is permitted. Be aware that things you say might still need to stay within HR guidelines. Try not to dance on the bar.